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How to foster a culture of well-being and DEIB: 6 tips for leaders

Organizations that aim to address employee burnout and improve well-being can glean lessons from their ongoing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging efforts.

Over the past several years, there has been an acceleration of organizations making visible commitments to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB). These commitments – made in response to rapid shifts in social expectations – have been aimed at rooting out the systemic barriers (e.g., racism, patriarchy) that prevent employees from being their full, authentic selves at work. Many organizations have learned that being aware of – and successfully addressing – the barriers faced by underrepresented groups depends greatly on the collective efforts of its leaders and employees working together to actively and sustainably redefine the workplace culture.

Now, as workplace burnout runs rampant, organizations are expressing their ambitions to drive a meaningful well-being agenda. For many, widespread employee burnout is yet another systemic issue that must be solved at the root, i.e., by addressing the company culture around how work gets done and how results are achieved.

This is difficult work. These commitments can’t be completed as quickly as rolling out a new well-being benefit (or hiring a Chief DEIB Officer, for that matter). But what organizations should recognize is that they already have a playbook for how to create a culture of employee well-being. Indeed, they can apply the strategy they’ve been using for fostering a culture of DEIB to creating a culture of well-being at work.

Below, we further explore the connection between well-being and DEIB, as well as what leaders can do to create a culture of well-being and DEIB; one where all voices are heard – and all employees thrive.

How are well-being and DEIB connected?

At Qualtrics, we’ve identified four key drivers of well-being at work:

  • Alignment: This driver measures the fit between the individual, their role, and the organization overall. Research shows that achieving a good level of alignment helps to reduce (or buffer against) job pressures.
  • Support: This driver measures employees' perception of the availability of continued support, particularly from their managers, as well as their colleagues, and the organization overall.
  • Resilience: This driver represents the resources that help an individual cope – despite workplace demands – and maintain healthy levels of well-being.
  • Balance: This driver measures how well an individual is coping with the demands of a job that requires sustained effort.

Read more: 4 ways to boost your people’s well-being

Understanding each driver provides your organization with critical signals for where to start when it comes to improving employee well-being, yes – but also how to improve DEIB.

Here’s why: The drivers of well-being are intimately connected to DEIB, and vice versa. Inclusive cultures foster better role alignment and employee resilience. Inclusive cultures also offer better balance, where all employees know they’re supported. By driving greater DEIB, you’ll also increase employee well-being.

Inclusion is a key differentiator between a positive working culture and a negative one, the same is also true of cultures with positive well-being: High levels of well-being reduce instances of harassment, stereotyping, and racial discrimination.

To create a positive workplace culture, organizations will need to make concerted efforts towards driving both well-being and DEIB.

How can leaders help create a culture that supports both well-being and DEIB?

When it comes to creating a culture of well-being and DEIB, many organizations over-index on policies and programs that will attract employees, but discount the ideologies within the culture that make the real difference in whether people stay. And to drive real change, leaders must be empowered to take action (hint: that comes from the top).

Here are six ways leaders can get started fostering a culture that supports employee well-being and DEIB:

1. Embrace disruption.

Improving your culture will require a shift in mindset; one that’s focused on assessing – and addressing – factors such as entrenched thinking,  unhealthy work norms, systemic issues and/or barriers, as well as how well your organization helps employees to better manage their workload. In many cases, prioritizing both well-being and DEIB will require significant disruption.

“Often, the processes that need disrupting are the ones deeply ingrained in the way work is done. Organizations should continue to challenge the culture, the norms, ideologies, and implicit expectations that make achieving a healthy work environment unattainable.”

- Dr. Lindsay Johnson, Ph.D., Sr. Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Program Manager at Qualtrics

2. Model work-life integration and boundary setting.

When it comes to accomplishing goals and supporting well-being, balance is vital. Employees want to be stretched, challenged and feel energized. But there’s a tipping point into being overwhelmed or feeling burned out.

By modeling work-life integration and boundary setting in your own work life, you demonstrate to your employees that you can still achieve results while working at a sustainable pace. Doing so also helps you, as a leader, strike a better balance, too.

3. Get ruthless about prioritization.

One big question leaders must examine is, how do we accomplish goals and support employee well-being at the same time? There will always be new goals to achieve, but think through which ones are the most critical for your team right now. If something gets added on, what is going to get dropped?

“When we push people and reward them for taking on too much, eventually work quality suffers. Instead, we need to define what a reasonable workload looks like – and normalize that across the culture.”

- Grant Gurewitz, Senior Marketing Manager, Employee Experience at Qualtrics

4. Remember that well-being is not the same for all employees.

Well-being in traditionally marginalized or underrepresented groups such as women, women of color, people with disabilities, and other intersectional identities can look different due to their unique lived experiences.

Related reading: How to build and develop inclusive teams

5. Advocate for your people to drive systemic change.

Our recent research shows that 32% of employees say they are not energized at work and similarly, 35% are skeptical about their career opportunities with their current employer. In addition, more than half (58%) of workers say their job is the main source of their mental health challenges.

Listen to the individual needs and concerns of your employees, and then use your position as a people leader to speak to your leadership about what will drive change.

6. Leverage employee listening tools.

Our Well-being at Work Solution measures how energized employees feel, how positive they feel about themselves, and what level of trusting relationships they have at work. With access to their team’s results, leaders can better understand which factors are making the biggest impact on their team, as well as best practice guidance on how to take action.

Remember: A positive workplace culture is not an extraneous benefit; it’s a prerequisite for productivity and profitability. Fixing your culture builds the foundation for your people to show up as their best and do their jobs.

Improve well-being with our best practices ebook

Qualtrics // Experience Management

Qualtrics, the leader and creator of the experience management category, is a cloud-native software platform that empowers organizations to deliver exceptional experiences and build deep relationships with their customers and employees.

With insights from Qualtrics, organizations can identify and resolve the greatest friction points in their business, retain and engage top talent, and bring the right products and services to market. Nearly 20,000 organizations around the world use Qualtrics’ advanced AI to listen, understand, and take action. Qualtrics uses its vast universe of experience data to form the largest database of human sentiment in the world. Qualtrics is co-headquartered in Provo, Utah and Seattle.

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